Both cold and flu are viral infections of the upper respiratory tract. Though we refer to cold and flu as a combination of diseases, they are two different conditions. It is just that the symptoms are similar, and it is difficult to figure out if you have a cold or flu. You have to know the difference between cold and flu so that you can take remedies as required.
The American Lung Association says that there are about 200 known viruses that cause the common cold. Rhinovirus is the most common virus-causing sneezes and a stuffy nose. The common cold is highly contagious and spreads from one person to another. If a person with cold sneezes or coughs, the droplets can infect the person around them. If an infected person has coughed on a table and you touch it, you are likely to catch a common cold, too. Cold can infect people of all ages, but it is more common during the winters.
Influenza or flu
Medically known as influenza, commonly known as flu, is an infection of the upper respiratory tract. Flu is caused by viruses Influenza A, B, and C. This infection is more seasonal. More cases are seen between fall and spring, but maximum in the winter. Just like the flu, the infection spreads through droplets from an infected person.
Cold vs. influenza
Both cold and flu have many common symptoms, and it is difficult for us at home to make a correct diagnosis. However, it is the intensity of the symptoms that make the difference. Here are some differentiating points between the symptoms of both infections.
A person with a common cold will not have a fever. However, if it is influenza, the person will have a fever, and the temperature could rise quickly.
A person is likely to have mild chills if it is a cold, and moderate to severe chills if it is a bout of flu.
Headache is rare during a common cold, unless it is a severe infection; whereas, headache is common during a bout of flu.
- Body ache
There will be mild or no body aches during a common cold; whereas, severe body pain is one of the early symptoms of influenza.
If you have a common cold, you are likely to feel mild fatigue but will be able to carry on your normal chores. If it is the flu, you will feel very weak and tired and will need rest.
- Nasal congestion
It is one of the early symptoms of a cold, and it can be severe. On the other hand, there could be mild or no nasal congestion during a bout of flu.
Severe and continuous sneezing is a typical symptom of the common cold. Sneezing is not a symptom of the flu.
- Chest discomfort
One can go through mild chest discomfort due to common cold and moderate to severe during a bout of flu.
Severe hacking cough with a lot of mucus is a given during a bout of cold. However, a person with the flu is likely to have moderate to severe dry cough without mucus.
The onset of flu is quick and severe, and it lasts for more than two weeks. If your symptoms do not improve despite natural and home remedies within 48 hours, do not take self-medication. Always visit a doctor, and get a proper diagnosis to rule out any further complications.